Jeffrey Brown returns with his popular sister-brother Neanderthal duo with book number two in his newest series for young readers, Lucy & Andy Neanderthal, which combines science with a modern-day take on prehistoric life.
In The Stone Cold Age, the siblings’ cave has become crowded as they’ve welcomed into their home an extended, racially diverse group of humans. Modern-day fictional commentators explain the science behind the comic strip adventures. In addition to laughing at sarcastic one-liners, young readers will also learn about what life was like 40,000 years ago.
Our catalog for children’s and teen titles, Growing Minds, talked with Brown about the latest addition to his humorous series. Read the interview below and don’t forget to enter the Jeffrey Brown Summer Reading Sweepstakes!
How did you come up with the idea for these Neanderthal siblings?
I’ve always loved prehistoric times and creatures, from dinosaurs to cavemen. In the past 10 years there’s been a lot of fascinating research about Neanderthals, and I thought there should be a book for kids that combined the science with a fun story. The idea of exploring what we know about Stone Age life through the lives of Neanderthal kids seemed like the right place to start. I knew making the characters brother and sister would give me a fun dynamic with lots of great stories to imagine.
How do you come up with storylines?
Whether I’m writing about Star Wars or the Stone Age, I always start with stories that are grounded in real life, and usually my own life. Although I don’t have a sister, I drew on the experience of growing up with two brothers to hopefully give readers a real emotional connection to the characters and their sibling rivalry. And since I wanted the Lucy & Andy series to draw on the most current science, I ended up doing a ton of research to try and give kids a real sense of what life 40,000 year ago might have been like.
Why tell stories through comics?
I’m a big fan of humor, whether it’s laugh-out-loud gags or dry and subtle jokes, and also of emotional storytelling — stories that make you feel something.
What do you like best about this series?
For me, the best part about writing this series was the challenge of figuring out how to combine all of the real life science with a funny kids’ story. I think Lucy and Andy are both my favorite characters — each of them has a little bit of me in them, so at different times I find myself feeling closer to one or the other. And a lot of the time Lucy and Andy get into trouble together, which gives me the same feeling I always had growing up — my brothers and I had a habit of that, too!
What has the reader response been like?
The reader response has been great! My son Oscar has always been interested in science and learning as much as he loves a funny book, and so I wasn’t surprised that young readers have shown a ton of interest in learning more about Neanderthals and Stone Age life. One of the fun things about a book series is seeing what kids think will (or should) happen next, or how their feelings about characters develop as things happen in the narratives. They really care about the characters, and that’s always a great feeling for an author.